Problem solvers–esp. management consultants–rely mostly on rational analysis for solving business problems. Business schools also mainly teach the rational analytical approach in various courses. The role of intuition in problem solving, unfortunately, is neither well understood nor promoted.
In this context, it is heartening to see Bruce Henderson (BCG’s famous founder) put the use of intuition in context.
According to him, problem solving should follow the following steps:
- Start intuitively (e.g. for defining the problem, for making assumptions, for generating initial hypothesis, etc.)
- Then, proceed with rational analysis (e.g. for refining the problem statement, testing various hypothesis, etc.)
- Finally, make the final decision intuitively! (e.g. I once did a project where we took the final decision after adding the scores on various decision-making criteria. I bet lot of other people would also be making this mistake today. This must never be done! BTW, this alone is a solid takeaway IMO..)
Read Bruce’s original article here.
Use intuition to define your problem and hypothesize solutions. Then redefine the problem rigorously and analyze it in depth. Then make the final decision intuitively.
* We keep on adding examples, as and when we obtain them2